Catena Alta Chardonnay, 2010

February 4th, 2013

One of the wine guys in Majestic (most of them are pretty knowledgeable in a wonderfully geeky kind of way), recommended this, when I enquired about big Chardonnays. Surely you are just recommending your latest offer? Admittedly buying two bottles to save £12 is a good deal, but it sounds like you are trying to get rid of it. “No I tried some at home last weekend – really fruity, big and scrumptious”.

He meant in a new world style, rather than a classic Burgundy. I’m not sure. The heaviest thing about this wine, apart from the slightly excessive 14% ABV, is the bottle. I know I paid its air freight from Argentina, but delicate petals adorn the inside. It tastes pretty classy. Quite peachy with vanilla and elderflower. The only new world giveaway is a nod towards one of those banana shaped foam sweets from the Pick n Mix.

Regular readers know that I am a big fan of Catena Zapata wines. This one is not cheap at £23, but with a double bottle discount reducing the price to £17, it is well worth a try. Drank mine with a simple pork chop cooked on the skillet at about 12 degrees (the wine not the chop).

Errazuriz Carmenere, 2011

December 13th, 2012

My take on Carménère, especially when made in Chile, where it is more commonly called Carmenère or even the totally vulgar Carmenere, is that it smells of real wood fires. The wonderful scent that welcomes you back to a Cotswolds village on a crisp winter evening after a long walk in the hills, when you are making your last, trudging and tired, but relentlessly determined steps towards a cosy, heart and toe warming pub.

This Chilean model, which lacks self-confidence to the extent that it opens its kimono on the front label to guide your taste buds towards an “exotic and spicy, full bodied style with damson and blackberry fruit”, has so much smoke it triggers a gag reflex. When first poured, a dip of the nose is like putting your head over the top of the Cotswold village smoking chimney. Face crumples. Nose drips. Eyes bleed.

Fortunately the wine does mellow a bit when tasted, but there remains a slightly astringent and  cacophonous afterburn. Not great for a wine being punted by Majestic for £7.99.

Drink it very cool or better still, opt for the vastly superior Casillero del Diablo Carmenère even more widely available and in the same price bracket.

Tesco Finest Chablis, 2011

December 4th, 2012

Are you a bit snooty about supermarket wines? I am, but I shouldn’t be. After a warm experience with a couple of Asda whites recently, I was intrigued enough to attend a Tesco wine tasting where this Chablis stood out from the “Finest” range.

Steely, minerally Chardonnays from this northern Burgundy region can occasionally taste like putting your tongue across the poles of a 9v battery. Conversely, on opening, this one is full of soft ripe peachy fruit, a bit too soft. But, as the wine warms (best left out of the fridge for about an hour before drinking) the fruit starts sucking on a black Welsh beach pebble. Not at all over-acidic, very classy and smooth and, as a result, better with roast pork than seafood.

If you shop at Tesco, you might be interested in the code XXH4H4 which, when entered into the Tesco website before Dec 31, 2012, will get you a “no strings attached” £5 discount from a case of wine of your choice.

Have a rethink about supermarket wines, some are better than two slaps across the thigh with a wet kipper from the fish stand. Depending on your sexual persuasion, arguably much, much, better.

Valle Perdido Pinot Noir, 2010

November 29th, 2012

If you judge a book by its cover or a wine by its label, hide your head behind the sofa now. I’ve never read such total utter bollocks on a wine bottle. Piers Morgan and Worzel Gummidge’s love child could have written something more coherent and less smug. Fortunately, I have an open mind. Unscrew the cap, James…

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Dignité 2009 Syrah and Latitude Wines

November 24th, 2012

If you are looking for a high quality but eclectic wine shop somewhere in the world, then Hanging Ditch, near Manchester Cathedral, is a good first stab. But what if you live the other side of the Pennines, and your passport has expired? Recommendations flooded in for Latitude Wines in the centre of Leeds, under the railway arches. It meets the eclecticity brief. Walking into a cave (as in wine cellar) with a claustrophobicly low ceiling with wine racks and baskets strewn at jaunty angles with random offers, it’s the sort of place that I find impossible to walk out of without troubling the wallet.

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Aguma Premium Tannat, 2010

November 11th, 2012

If you like red wine so fruity that it tastes like a compote, made from 3 metric tonnes of berries reduced down to 3 fl oz, then you will love this Tannat.

Personally, for a wine that retails at north of fifteen quid, I would like to see a real cork, or a screwcap, instead of a trendy black ‘plastic cork’. Conversely, and equally surprising at this price point is a bit of metal, a lead seal (presumably also plastic) on the label. What a waste of money that could have been invested in a new vat, or some wine making expertise.

I’m tempted to call this a triumph of marketing over quality. In fact, the wine is quite nice. Just not £15.99 nice, even with 25% Angels’ discount. Come on, Naked, you can do better than this.

Château Jouaninel, 2009

November 6th, 2012

I had a long overdue mooch around Majestic recently. To be perfectly honest, a large proportion of the wines were predictable old fellas. But search hard enough and there are some real gems. I managed to walk out with 15 bottles having lightened my wallet to the tune of £222 (a double Nelson, for the cricketers out there).

One notable success story was this Fronton from the Deep South of France. Barely registering on the fruitometer, the overwhelming and delicious flavour is of a freshly baked rosemary focaccia served on an earthenware plate and drizzled with olive oil. Herby rather than fruity, and rich and spicy, it went superbly with a pepperoni pizza. £7.99 or £6.99 for two or more bottles.

I must also award a WART Medaille d’Or for a recommended drinking temperature clearly displayed on the back label. 17 Celsius is the advice. That’s at least five degrees cooler than your living room. Please chill a little. I’d actually open it at 15° and let it warm.

If you are a Majestic fan, look out for more wine notes on this blog over the next few weeks.

Madiran, Château de Crouseilles, 2008

October 31st, 2012

In these days of recession where few of us can afford the high end Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone wines; where the axis of oenology has shifted to the BRIC countries, leaving Americans and Brits to pick up the scraps; where does one look for quality combined with value? Most wine commentators (including me) point to the South West of France.

Of course, this region has offered great wines for years. It’s just that, if you can afford a Latour, why roam further than Pauillac? I can’t afford a Latour, so I like (that is to say I am compelled) to adventure.

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Camus-Bruchon, Les Pimientiers, Savigny-lès-Beaune, 2006

October 28th, 2012

Tipped off by Bob Tyrer, I mined The Wine Society for a “bargain bin-end”: Camus-Bruchon Savigny ‘Les Pimientiers’ from ancient vines, but a drink-up date of 2012.

The quid is a heavily discounted price of £14.95. But what is the pro quo?

If you are a red Burgundy aficionado, you will probably love this: Composty, full of fruit, chicken shit, and with ‘bright acidity’ (whatever that means). But I thought it tasted just a smidgen sharp and a little old. Nothing technically wrong. Just better stuff around to drink at this price.

I have two more bottles, so maybe I’ll change my mind next time. That’s the beauty of wine. Every bottle’s taste varies depending on the ageing, the environment you drink in, the temperature, the glass etc etc. I carried this bottle across the Irish Sea to drink with hummus, cured meats, veg and breads from Dublin’s premier supermarket, Superquinn. The food was disappointing to put it mildly. There’s a Tesco down the road from my mother-in-law’s. Next time I’ll try that for dips, with meat from Michael Dolan in Finglas Village, and veg from Ciaran’s rustic and adorably amateur greengrocer up near Dunne’s. If I bring the same wine, I’m convinced I’ll enjoy it a little more.

I guess Bob placed a bulk order because the bin has ended, but you can get the 2009 from The Wine Society at £22.

Catena Chardonnay, 2010

October 13th, 2012

Anyone who has forked out silly money in a restaurant for Alta, or even Zapata, will know that Catena produces the daddy of Argentinian Malbec.

Feeling a bit silly for never having tried their Chardonnay, I instructed my bank manager to remit 995 new pennies to the Wine Society and this is what I got in return (postage included).

Chardonnay, and in particular South American Chardonnay gets a bad rap for a being a bit passé, a bit Footballers’ Wives. The shout at every wine bar in Peckham in the PPG (Pre-Pinot Grigio) era, might seem a little bit 1980s, but in my experience, most non-winos when questioned, don’t even realise that the finest white Burgundies are Chardonian.

I, for one, would like to see a revival of this classic old world grape, especially when experimented with in the new. So I have high hopes from one of my favourite wine producers, from one of my favourite wine countries (not that I have forgiven Maradona for the 1986 Hand of God incident).

Just as it is a massive error to drink red wine too warm, over-chilling a rich Chardonnay will stifle your enjoyment. If you are going to put your bottle in the bottom of the fridge for 3 days, you deserve all you get and you could save a lot of money by drinking Echo Falls, since it will taste equally bland. About 20 mins in an ice bucket (from room temp) should be more than enough. I like to drink it in a large, wide bowl glass to maximise the nasal intake.

And the aroma is likely to blow your socks off, or make you gag, depending on your taste buds. The Catena is richer than Tiger Woods, albeit more faithful. It tastes stronger than the 13.5 ABV that it is. Pineapple and stewed fruit combine with sautéed flint stone to give a pleasantly warm and buttery acidity.

It’s not going to beat a top Burgundy, but at a third of the price, it doesn’t have to.

Catena is available widely so if you have some weird vendetta against The Wine Society you can find it at Bibendum, Winedirect, Slurp.co.uk and others.